Today in Philippine history, June 3, 1863, a strong earthquake rocked Manila

Tuesday July 07, 2015 ()

On June 3, 1863, at thirty-one minutes past seven in the evening, after a day of tremendous heat while all Manila was busy in its preparations for the festival of Corpus Christi, the ground suddenly rocked to and fro with great violence. The firmest buildings reeled visibly, walls crumbled, and beams snapped in two. The dreadful shock lasted half a minute; but this little interval was enough to change the whole town into a mass of ruins, and to bury alive hundreds of its inhabitants.

Dr. Pedro Pablo Pelaez, in temporary charge of the diocese and dying in the cathedral, was the foremost Filipino victim. Pelaez and several others were celebrating the rites of Corpus Christi at the Cathedral when the earthquake destroyed the roof of the edifice and buried them under the debris which took days to clear. Pelaez' corps was found later beside a friend under the debris of the Cathedral.

On June 3, 1863, a strong earthquake rocked Manila
(An artist's impression of Manila Cathedral following the June 3, 1863 earthquake.)

A letter of the governor-general, states that the cathedral, the government-house, the barracks, and all the public buildings of Manila were entirely destroyed, and that the few private houses which remained standing threatened to fall in.

The meizoseismic area comprised the Provinces of Manila, Bulacan, Morong (Rizal), Laguna, and eastern Cavite. Fissures in the ground were reported from Bulacan. In Manila the greatest damage to private houses occurred along and near the river. The axis of the meizoseismic area followed the direction of the eastern cordillera.

Later accounts speak of four hundred killed and two thousand injured, and estimate the loss at eight millions of dollars. Forty six public and five hundred and seventy private buildings were thrown down; twenty-eight public and five hundred twenty-eight private buildings were nearly destroyed, and all the houses left standing were more or less injured.


  1. Jagor's travels in the Philippines, The former Philippines thru foreign eyes, edited by Austin Craig, Philippine Education Company, Manila, 1916
  2. Monograph, Volume 19, Number 1, Philippine Bureau of Science, Manila, 1924.
  3. Photo credit: House Divided (


Comments (Today in Philippine history, June 3, 1863, a strong earthquake rocked Manila)